DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 25.
Precepts Regulating Corporal Punishment, Levirate Marriage, and Weights.
OF BODILY PUNISHMENTS ó V.1. If there be a controversy between men, some matter of litigation, and they come unto judgment, bring the matter before the proper officers, that the judges may judge them, then they, the judges, shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, declare the latter to be guilty before the law, Ex. 22, 8; 23, 7. V.2. And it shall be if the wicked man, he whom the judges have found to be in the wrong, be worthy to be beaten, literally, ďif a son of stripes the guilty one,Ē that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, while he personally witnessed the punishment, according to his fault, by a certain number, in proportion to the severity of his transgression. V.3. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed, this precept later resulting in the limitís being placed at thirty-nine, for there was danger of miscounting, and the Jews, especially after the return from the exile, were anything if not literal, 2 Cor. 11, 24; lest, if he should exceed and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee, lowered beneath the dignity of a man and a member of Godís people. The punishment by whipping was in use also in Egypt, where the culprit was laid flat on the ground, his hands and feet held firmly, and the punishment administered on the back in the presence of the judge. V.4. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. The usual form of threshing in the Orient is that on a threshing-floor out in the open, where the grain was spread out and oxen driven back and forth across the floor to loosen the grain from the hulls by stepping upon the ears. The humane measure of keeping the animals unmuzzled at that time gave them an opportunity to pick up food whenever they became hungry. It seems that this precept was soon understood in the proverbial sense, in which it is also applied by St. Paul, in his admonition to provide properly for the pastors and teachers, 1 Cor. 9, 9; 1 Tim. 5, 18.
THE LEVIRATE MARRIAGE ó V.5. If brethren dwell together, upon the same paternal inheritance, and one of them die and have no child, no one to perpetuate his family, and thus to keep his property in the possession of the family, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger, any one outside her tribe or kindred; her husbandís brother, or, as history shows, her nearest kinsman, Gcn. 38, 8; Ruth 1, 12, shall go in unto her and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husbandís brother unto her. Thus the marriage with a sister-in-law, otherwise forbidden by Law, Lev. 18, 16, was made a duty in this case. V.6. And it shall be that the first-born which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, being considered and registered in the genealogical table as the son and rightful heir of his motherís first husband, that his name be not put out of Israel. In this way many difficult questions concerning inheritances were avoided. V.7. And if the man like not to take his brotherís wife, for the marriage was not an absolute or unavoidable duty, then let his brotherís wife go up to the gate unto the elders, for questions of right and justice mere usually disposed of in the open space inside the city gates, and say, My husbandís brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, to perpetuate his family in the manner here provided for, he will not perform the duty of my husbandís brother, namely, by marrying the widow. V.8. Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak unto him; and if he stand to it and say, I like not to take her, if he found himself unable to throw off the unwillingness to comply with the custom as fixed by the levirate lam, v.9. then shall his brotherís wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, go directly up to him right there in public, because he was bound to submit to what followed, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brotherís house. Her act of contempt in a way compensated her for the reproach which the man heaped upon her by refusing to marry her, and thus to found and establish his brotherís family. The taking off of the shoe was a custom signifying the ceding of a piece of ground or property to some one else, just as one declares his rights of ownership by stepping upon such property. The disgrace in this case consisted in the fact that the woman loosed the manís shoe, thus publicly depriving him of his right to the property of his dead brother. V.10. And his name shall be called in Israel ďThe house of him that hath his shoe loosed.Ē So the disgrace would rest upon the man, even in the nickname which he bore, for having neglected the duty of relationship to his brother. There is no discrepancy between this passage and the law of Lev. 18. For the marriage with oneís sister-in-law was forbidden when there were children, since the integrity of the brotherís house was thus upheld; here it was commanded in order to keep the family of the brother from becoming extinct.
CORRECT WEIGHTS AND MEASURES ó V.11. when men strive together one with another, become engaged in fisticuffs, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets, v.12. then thou, the constituted authority, shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her. This precept was here inserted in order to guard against a false freedom and familiarity of the female sex toward those of the opposite sex. V.13. Thou shalt not have in thy bag, usually a large leather sack or purse, divers weights, a great and a small, a set of large stones for purchases, a set of small ones for sales. This could be done both where stones and where scraps of iron were used by the merchants. 3) V.14. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small, a large ephah or dry measure for purchases, a small ephah for sales. V.15. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, each one, whether in the shop or in the house, complete, whole, holding just the amount which it was supposed to hold, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have, that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee, in the matter of receiving temporal blessings, chap. 4, 26; 5, 16. V.16. For all that do such things, in making use of dishonesty in any form, and all that do unrighteously, any one guilty of deliberate wrong-doing, are an abomination unto the Lord, thy God. But this consideration shown the neighbor at home was not to degenerate into a false weakness and indulgence toward enemies whose extermination the Lord had decided upon. V.17. Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt, Ex. 17, 8; v.18. how he met thee by the way, namely, at Rephidim near Horeb, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. The inhumanity practiced by the Amalekites in thus injuring and destroying the stragglers of the Israelitish army showed that there was no fear of God in their ranks. V.19. Therefore it shall be when the Lord, thy God, hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord, thy God, giveth thee for an in heritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. Cp. 12, 10; Ex. 17. 14; Deut. 9, 7. Israel, acting as Godís agent, carried out this command at the time of Saul, 1 Sam. 15.